New November, new opportunity.
There’s no question the Cowboys expect a better showing this Sunday in Atlanta than last year’s blowout loss to Falcons, when Dak Prescott was sacked a career-high eight times.
But that was last year, and this year the Cowboys have new motivation: the opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time in 2018 and keep pace behind Washington in the NFC East race.
Which team wins Sunday and why? The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their ‘gut feelings’ for the road matchup in Atlanta:
Rob Phillips: Here’s a three-year formula that has proven true time and again: When Ezekiel Elliott eats, the Cowboys typically win. Last week the Cowboys improved to 13-3 when Elliott gets at least 100 yards rushing. Atlanta is allowing 5.2 yards per carry, tied with the Rams for most in the league. No doubt they’ll be focused on containing Zeke. That’ll be a matchup to watch this Sunday. But the key for me is whether the Dallas defense can limit the Falcons’ passing game despite their depth issues up front. (Defensive linemen Taco Charlton, David Irving and Daniel Ross have been ruled out of the game, and Antwaun Woods is listed as doubtful.) Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense will likely make plays, but I expect the Cowboys’ offense to carry over momentum from last week. We might just see another high-scoring game in the second half, but I’ll take Dallas to improve to 5-5.
Mickey Spagnola: This is going to be a track meet. Better yet, it’s going to be one of the high school scores of late, like 62-56. OK, OK, maybe not that many touchdowns. But look. The Falcons come into this game with the No. 2-ranked passing offense, sixth overall total offense. The Cowboys’ offense has been juiced by the presence of Amari Cooper. Couple that with the Falcons also owning the 30th-ranked pass defense and were shredded last Sunday by Cleveland for 211 rushing yards. So, this Cowboys offense should be revved up, too. Plus, last week I said I would not pick the Cowboys to win on the road until they finally win one on the road. And they did. Won in Philly. So, if they can win in Philly, they can win in Atlanta. Cowboys 34, Falcons 31.
Nick Eatman: Every week is the same it seems. It comes down to Friday on our second segment of “Cowboys Break” and I finally have to get off the fence I’ve been sitting on all week. I really see the Cowboys and Falcons has very equal heading into this game. Sure, one of them likes to pass the ball all over the field and the other is more run-oriented. Defensively, I give the edge to the Cowboys of course, but I do think the Falcons are a much different team at home. We’re about to find out if the Cowboys have cured their road-game woes, but it seemed like they were on track after Sunday. My gut tells me it will be an up-and-down game and because of that, I don’t like the Cowboys’ chances there. While I do believe the offense is improving, I don’t know if I trust it in a shootout environment. Because of that, plus the Falcons being in desperation mode at home, I’m picking Atlanta in a close one, 28-23.
David Helman: I’ve said a dozen times that I don’t trust this team. They haven’t managed to find a shred of consistency through this up-and-down season. And yet, I can’t help but fall for the hype coming off last week’s win in Philadelphia. The Cowboys ran at will and scored 27 points against the league’s second-best run defense – so surely they should be able to find some success against this Falcons defense, which is one of the NFL’s worst. Of course, I’m aware that Atlanta boasts a powerful offense. The Falcons score on 87 percent of their trips to the red zone at home. They have the league’s leading receiver in Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley is having himself a nice rookie season. But the bottom line is that I trust this Dallas defense to buckle down when the field shrinks. They aren’t going to shut the Falcons down, but I think they can hold them to a field goal or two – perhaps force a turnover. If they can do that, it should be enough. I don’t see any reason why Zeke Elliott can’t run for at least 130, and that will only open things up for the passing game. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think I trust the Cowboys’ offense to maintain this momentum and get a win – something like 31-28.
Lindsay Draper: Of all the places where Dallas is unhealthy or banged up, the secondary is pretty solid. Which I believe will be the grounds for the deciding factor on Sunday – will the Cowboys secondary be able to keep up with the speedy wide receivers? Aside from the deadly receivers Atlanta has, I think the teams match up pretty well – even in their desperation factor. Both teams are 4-5, the only difference? The Falcons are coming off a loss to the Browns, and the Cowboys are coming off an emotional win on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champions. Cowboys win. Why not?
Bryan Broaddus: The Atlanta Falcons have been poor on defense all season. They don’t defend the run nor do they play well against the pass. They’re facing a Cowboys offense that has appeared to have found something with Amari Cooper in the lineup. I could see Cooper having a big game catching the ball as well as Ezekiel Elliott running it. My concern is that Matt Ryan and these Falcons skill players are going to be just as difficult to defend. The pressure to have to score along with the Falcons will be too much for the Cowboys to keep up with. The Falcons have been outstanding at home all year offensively and that will continue to be the case. Falcons 31, Cowboys 24.